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Monmouth Poll: Pandemic Impact Stabilizes

Pandemic Impact Stabilizes

Fewer Americans express concern that a family member will get sick from the coronavirus even though more report knowing someone who has contracted it compared to one month ago. The Monmouth University Poll also finds a declining number who say the outbreak has had a major impact on their lives. However, racial minority groups continue to report higher levels of prevalence and concern about Covid. The percentage of Americans reporting a financial impact from the pandemic, such as a job or income loss, has not changed in the past month. The public remains largely hopeful that life will return to normal after the emergency is over, although slightly less hopeful than they were last month.

Slightly more than 4 in 10 Americans (42%) are very concerned about someone in their family becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus. This is down from 50% who felt this level of concern last month and closer to 38% who were very concerned as the outbreak started to spread in late March. Another 28% in the current poll are somewhat concerned, 14% are not too concerned and 16% are not at all concerned.

The public’s lower level of concern comes even though more people report knowing someone who has gotten the virus. That number currently stands at 40%, which is up from 26% last month. Two percent of Americans report they have had the coronavirus themselves (compared to less than 1% in April) and 14% say a family member has contracted it (up from 7%). By race, those who are white (12% now, up from 5% in April) remain less likely than Americans who are black, Latino, Asian or of other races (23% now, up from 12%) to report that they or someone in their family has gotten the coronavirus.

While all demographic groups have shown a decrease in concern levels since last month, this is more pronounced among whites (34% very concerned now, compared with 46% in April and 31% in March) than it is among Latinos or those of other races (55% now, compared with 60% in April and 52% in March). There has also been a larger drop in concern among those aged 55 and older (44% now, compared with 56% in April and 49% in March) and 35 to 54 year olds (42% now, compared with 52% in April and 38% in March) than among those 18 to 34 years old (39% now, compared with 42% in April and 27% in March).

“Concern about Covid seems to have returned to where it was in the early days of the public response to the pandemic in this country,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

About half the public expresses some level of confidence that the country will be able to limit the outbreak’s impact over the next few weeks, including 16% who are very confident and 34% who are somewhat confident. Another 25% are not too confident and 25% are not at all confident that the pandemic will be brought under control soon. Current confidence levels are similar to last month (15% very and 38% somewhat), but lower than they were in March (25% very and 37% somewhat).

Currently, 56% of Americans report that the outbreak has had a major impact on their daily lives, which is down from 62% in April and closer to 53% who reported a major impact in late March. Another 31% say the outbreak has had a minor impact on their daily lives and just 13% say it has had no real impact. The drop in feeling a major impact is due more to a change in opinion among Republicans (43% now, compared with 55% in April and 40% in March) than among independents (61% now, compared with 64% in April and 57% in March) and Democrats (62% now, compared with 66% in April and 61% in March).

“The drop in feeling a major impact may be partly due to the fact that things have stabilized for most families after taking a hit in April,” said Murray.

Currently, 40% of the public reports losing income due to a decrease in work during the pandemic. This is similar to 41% who reported having an income loss in April (up from 35% in March). Just over 1 in 5 (23%) report struggling to pay their bills, which is basically unchanged from 22% who said the same last month (this question was not asked in March). The poll finds that 26% report working from home for the first time because of the public health crisis. This response was 27% in April and 20% in March. Also, 21% say they started getting their groceries delivered, compared with 18% in April and 12% in March.

Three in ten (31%) Americans report that someone in their household has been laid off from work because of the outbreak, which is virtually unchanged from last month (30%). People reporting layoffs in their household include 39% of those earning less than $50,000 a year, 31% of those earning $50,000 to under $100,000, and 24% of those earning $100,000 or more.

While many families have taken an economic hit in the past couple of months, most Americans continue to feel their financial situation is basically stable (63%). Another 23% say they are struggling and 13% say their finances are improving. These results have been steady throughout the pandemic, but represent fewer people who feel they are getting ahead than said the same last year (54% stable, 20% struggling, and 25% improving in April 2019).

“Americans seem to be differentiating between the short term hit and their long term prospects. Most expect that they will be back on their feet once the pandemic has passed, although this number has slipped a bit in the past month,” said Murray.

More than 6 in 10 Americans (63%) feel very hopeful that they and their families will be able to get their lives back to normal after the pandemic. This number stood at 69% last month. Another 28% in the current poll are somewhat hopeful, while very few are not too (5%) or not at all (2%) hopeful.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from April 30 to May 4, 2020 with 808 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.

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